Commercial fishing for Dungeness crab south of California’s Sonoma-Mendocino county line has been delayed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) due to concerns over potential entanglement with high numbers of humpback whales in the area.
The commercial fishery had been scheduled to open on Nov. 15 in fishing Zones 3, 4, 5 and 6.
CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said this week that based on recent surveys large aggregations of humpback whales are continuing to forage in coastal waters of California and allowing use of crab traps would raise the risk of an entanglement.
Bonham said his agency will continue to work with both recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries to protect whales and sea turtles while striving to maximize fishing opportunity. Bonham said CDFW appreciates the commitment of the fleet and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to protect the humpbacks.
“These partnerships will continue to shape the future of both fisheries and we look forward to continuing the important work of providing fishing opportunity in the coming weeks,” he said.
CDFW said it anticipates the next risk assessment would happen on or before Nov. 23, at which time Bonham would re-evaluate the temporary recreational crab trap restriction and commercial fishery delay in Fishing Zones 3-6, as well as the need for management actions for commercial Fishing Zones 1 and 2.
The risk assessment is expected to inform the potential for a statewide commercial fishery opener on Dec. 1 and the potential to modify the recreational trap restriction.
Under triggers established as part of the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program regulations for the commercial fishery as well as regulations for the recreational Dungeness crab fishery the CDFW director must implement a management action for these fishing zones to reduce marine life entanglement risk.